Russian Politics, & Personalities

Posts Tagged ‘Moscow

1999 Putin vs 2013 Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s op-ed that was published in the New York Times this morning has been met with both much praise and much derision.  My own Twitter feed has been filled with comments, jokes, and links to responses.  However, what caught my eye early on was this comment from Steve Lee Myers, the acting Bureau Chief for the New York Times in Moscow:

As Prime Minister in 1999, Putin oversaw the Russian incursion into Chechnya in the name of state security.  Many in the world community saw this as a cause for concern, and President Bill Clinton raised the issue when the two men met in Oslo in November of that year.

The emotional tone of the 1999 article [http://nyti.ms/1d6Z7LL%5D is the very first thing that jumped out at me.  Putin begins by saying: “Because we value our relations with the United States and care about Americans’ perception of us, I want to explain our actions in clear terms.”

He then goes straight into a hypothetical scenario of a terrorist attack on New York City (something that is very odd to read 12 years after 9/11), and urges his readers to imagine renegade militias out of Montana running rampant across middle America and striking fear into the hearts of citizens.  He compares this imaginary scenario to what Shamil Basayev was doing in Chechnya.

The whole essay is very artfully done.  Putin appeals to Americans’ experiences in the post-Cold War reality.  He cites incidents of terrorist violence on American targets around the world, and says, “Terrorism today knows no boundaries.”

He insists: “The antiterrorist campaign was forced upon us. Sadly, decisive armed intervention was the only way to prevent further casualties both within and far outside the borders of Chechnya, further suffering by so many people enslaved by terrorists….”

And his ending paragraph reads in an odd mixture of defensiveness, and meekness:

“But when a society’s core interests are besieged by violent elements, responsible leaders must respond. That is our purpose in Chechnya, and we are determined to see it through. The understanding of our friends abroad would be helpful.”

Contrast this with today’s article written in response to President Obama’s recent speech about Syria .  Again Putin appeals to the American public as a whole, and not just their leadership, saying: “It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.”

The following sentence was especially noteworthy when compared to the 1999 article in defense of the Russian incursion into Chechnya: “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country.”  Sound familiar at all?

Or compare the following two sentences.  Putin in 1999 defending his actions in Chechnya: “Yet in the midst of war, even the most carefully planned military operations occasionally cause civilian casualties, and we deeply regret that.”  And Putin in 2013 warning against targeted strikes in Syria: “No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.”

As Presidents do not write their own speeches, neither do they write their own articles.  Whatever the differences between these two articles, the authors of each one know their audience and worked hard to appeal to it.

The world has changed a lot in the last 14 years, and the reality today is much different than it was in 1999.  President Putin has now been in power in one form or another for almost 14 years.  Chechnya was destroyed and then rebuilt, but Russia is not really much safer than it was 14 years ago.

America meanwhile has had boots on the ground in Iraq for a decade, and Afghanistan for 12 years.  Most Americans are not enthusiastic about becoming entrenched in another conflict overseas no matter how noble the arguments for involvement are.  In that kind of environment, who could object to the following sentiment?  “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”

Putin’s appeal to the American public is not falling on fallow ground, as just skimming the 600 plus comments in his New York Times’ article will attest.  And the article has spawned a “Putin For Peace” trend on Twitter, with rumors of a possible Nobel Peace Prize nomination in the offing.  Mr Putin knows his audience, but does his audience know Mr Putin?

Written by Nina Jobe

September 12, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Navalny’s Poll Numbers

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VTsIOM today released the first poll numbers on the Moscow Mayoral race after Alexei Navalny’s conviction in the KirovLes fraud trial.  How much did the exposure help to improve Navalny’s poll numbers?  According to the state-run pollster’s results, not much.  A survey conducted on 9-10 July found 11.6% of eligible voters would vote for Navalny if the election was held the following Sunday.  A mere 10 days later, when asked the same question, 12.9% of respondents answered Navalny.  By contrast, Moscow’s current mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, received 78.3% and 77.1% respectively. 

Levada Center, meanwhile, has not released a poll on the Moscow mayoral election since early July, well before Navalny’s conviction.  In their last poll, 9.5% of respondents said they would vote for Navalny in the September 8 election.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Frolov said in an op-ed published yesterday in the Moscow Times, “All Navalny needs to do now is walk the streets of Moscow with his beautiful wife and shake hands to get more than 30 percent of the vote.”

But what exactly would prevent Navalny from rallying people to protest the results of the election by saying fraud took place?  It would not even have to be massive fraud.  Just a few well-documented cases would be enough to call for a march or even an Occupy-type scenario. 

Or, to put it another way, is there a “magic” percentage that allows Navalny to lose gracefully and does not end in street protests? 

Written by Nina Jobe

July 23, 2013 at 8:01 AM


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There are so many stories going around about this Luzhkov thing that I am almost reluctant to put up anything.  However, I am interested in the shortlist.  Everyone has their favourites, I guess, but here are a few that I’ve picked up from a Businessweek article:

-Boos.  I find this one odd since he was just forced out of Kaliningrad about a month ago.

-Sobyanin’s name keeps getting thrown around, too.  However, I still see Sobyanin as a risk.  I know he’s been around for about 5 years, but IMHO he is still a newbie.  I don’t know.  I just don’t feel good about it.

-Sergei Borisovich Ivanov.  Honestly?  I don’t want to lose the new, and IMHO improved Sergei Borisovich.  He is so much happier, and relaxed (and can I say less crazy?) now that he is out of the spotlight.  Can we please keep him that way?  Also, I don’t think DAM would go for it.

-Sergei Shoigu.  As for Shoigu, I do not really have any opinion one way or the other.  The man is certainly loyal (I’ll give him that).  And he always manages to stay above the fray, and/or out of the spotlight.  Which just seems odd because MChS is always involved during crises.  But if you had to score Shoigu, you’d give him an average score, wouldn’t you?  And why?  I don’t know.  He’s bland, and unexciting (except for the fact that he raises Labradors), and seems to get stuff done.  But in the back of my mind, I still remember Beslan, and then I don’t feel so good about him.  However, I think he’d be a loyal replacement.

P.S. Vedmosti is reporting that Yuri may be out by the end of the week, and someone else is saying December.

Meanwhile, here is Robert Coalson’s piece on the whole scandal.

EDIT: Sergei Ivanov has said that he is not interested in being mayor of Moscow.  Like I said, he is so much saner now.

Written by Nina Jobe

September 17, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Posted in Moscow

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Kudrin vs Luzhkov

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For awhile I thought that Kudrin was the weakest man in the Government.  I revised that point of view a few months ago for several reasons.  First of all, Igor Sechin has gone after him several times over the past few years, and Kudrin has stayed on.  At first I could not figure out why.  But I thought about it, and I realised that Kudrin has shown that he is basically loyal.  Plus, Kudrin gave Putin a place to stay when the latter first moved to Moscow.

It is a reciprocal relationship.  Putin values loyalty above all else.  He expects it.  At the same time, he is perfectly willing to reciprocate.  And he will, as long as the other person remains loyal.  But the minute there is a hint of disloyalty, you can kiss your job good-bye.  So, for the time being, it appears as though Kudrin is safe.

I have discussed Yuri Luzhkov several times over the past week or so.  Rumours abound as to his position (and the election last weekend did not appear to make him any safer).  However, I still maintain that he is safe, though considerably weaker than he was a year ago.

In light of all that, this story seems kind of weird.  I am not really sure what is happening here.  The article makes it sound like the two supposed weakest people are attacking each other.  I am more inclined to believe that Kudrin is acting as attack dog for the Government in an effort to further weaken Luzhkov.

Classic Quote from Yuri Luzhkov: “Kudrin will achieve in 2010 what not even the Germans managed to do in 1941 — to halt the works at the metro”.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 23, 2009 at 7:48 PM

Konstantin Sonin Is Bored

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I have read this op-ed piece by Konstantin Sonin about five times now, and I am still confused.  Not by what he says in the middle, but his beginning, and his conclusion.  He begins by saying: “In December [2008], I predicted that there would be huge shakeup in the Kremlin and White House at some point in 2009. It looks like I will be wrong on this one.”

There are still 10 more weeks (give or take) left in the year, so it is entirely possible that something big could happen.  But I rather doubt it will be what Sonin predicts.  However, he makes a good point.  The structure of the Tandemocracy is such that it would be impossible to make a dramatic change without transforming the structure itself.  Tipping the balance in favour of one group over the other could be dangerous (even though, as I have said before, it is not truly balanced).  Sonin takes this a step further, and tries to argue that even changing out Luzhkov would be mistake because it would make Luzhkov’s successor (allegedly Sobyanin) too strong, and destroy the status quo.

As I have previously stated, Yuri Luzhkov is just too strong to take on, or out.  Yes, he has suffered set-backs in the past year or so, but who hasn’t?  I have also discussed the issue of Sobyanin before, and why I think that Sobyanin as a successor to Luzhkov is just not true.  I could see moving Sobyanin into Gromov’s place as Governor of Moscow Region, and then later moving him into the Mayor’s office.  But I am not entirely convinced simply because of the nature of the system.

The power vertical forces alliances, and Sobyanin would have to play the strong man in order to gain control.  By playing that role, he would then become independent of the very people who created him, and pulled him out of relative obscurity.  And what do you suppose would happen then?  He would become another Yuri Luzhkov, or Mintimer Shaymiyev (President of Tatarstan), or worse, Ramzan Kadyrov.

At the same time, Zhukov is too weak to ever be truly effective, thus creating the “power vacuum” that Sonin refers to. And Kozak (another rumoured successor to Luzhkov) is too volatile (and too “liberal”).

Sonin’s conclusion?  “Despite these inherent political dangers, I remain firm in my prediction: There will be some big political shakeups in the next few months.”

I am still not entirely convinced.  I can see moving some more people within the Administration and Government around.  In fact, I have been expecting it.  But if Sonin truly believes that either of his three predictions will take place, he is (I apologise in advance) dreaming.  And he knows it.  Konstantin Sonin just wants some excitement in his life.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 16, 2009 at 11:12 PM

Moscow and Kompromat

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We talk a lot about people having Kompromat.  But nothing ever comes of it.  If I were to pick one person who has real, serious Kompromat, I would choose Yuri Luzhkov.  I cannot really see why else Putin et al. have not done anything about Yuri.  So I am not sure that I entirely buy into this idea that Yuri could be on his way out.  Here is what Viktor Timoffev says:

There are two possible scenarios for the [Moscow] region’s future. Either the Kremlin will appoint a new governor or Moscow and the Moscow region will join as a single municipality, and the newly appointed governor will replace both Gromov and Yury Luzhkov, the legendary Moscow mayor.

This solution would clear up a lot of confusion about Moscow’s status.  And it would be easier to control what goes on in Moscow.  But I still think that Yuri is safe, for the time being.

Timoffev goes on:

Some experts assume that the Kremlin is considering first deputy-prime minister Sergey Sobyanin for the job. One of the experts, who asked for anonimity because he was not authorized to speak on this matter, stated in an interview: “Sobyanin is one of the likeliest perspective candidates for this job and it whould be excellent if he would accept it. Other possible candidates for the position would be another first deputy PM Igor Shuvalov, or deputy PM Zhukov and Kozak.”

Let’s go through this list, shall we?  First, Sergey Sobyanin.  His CV makes him the most ideal candidate. Governor of Tyumen, plus various other admin posts.  In addition his current responsibilities of overseeing the division of power among federal, regional, and municipal levels of government make him very experienced.  However, as the Power Vertical has proved, a resume does not mean anything.  I shall probably repeat this until you get sick of hearing it, but the only thing the Power Vertical requires is a warm body who is at least nominally loyal.  And if we are going on loyalty alone, the most likely candidate from this list is Zhukov.  Because Kozak has shown that he can break out, and there is no way that Putin is letting go of Igor Shuvalov.

Written by Nina Jobe

October 4, 2009 at 12:09 PM